Interesting Reads: Man’s Search for Meaning

If I ever felt inadequate to summarize a book, it’s the one I want to talk about this month. 

Man’s Search For Meaning is a relatively short book, generally an easy read. But it is powerful. The author Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who was imprisoned in the Nazi death camps during World War II. 

Dr. Frankl saw many facets of the human psyche throughout that horrible experience, and he also had a lot of questions. 

Why did some give up and die, while others seemed to persist? 

Why did some strong individuals waste away and perish, while others held on and survived despite disease, malnutrition, and abuse? 

Through these observations he developed a school of psychology called “Logotherapy”, a tenet being “A person can survive any ‘how’, if they have a strong enough ‘why’.” 

Those who held fast to a reason, something that gave purpose to their suffering, simultaneously held on to the very purpose of their lives. Those who could find no purpose in their seemingly doomed existence, never lived long thereafter.

When I was first recommended the book, I saw it had the subtitle of “an introduction to Logotherapy” and I thought surely I had the wrong book. I was going to read a Jewish prisoner’s account of imprisonment during WWII, not some boring treatise on existentialism. 

Well, it’s both (though it’s not boring!). The book starts with Dr. Frankl’s description of his treatment, and that of his fellow prisoners, and slowly works it’s way into existentialist ideas. It’s not so deep the reader is drowning, but it certainly makes you think. 

I highly recommend it.

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